Towards innovation and agility in an environment of disruption

Inflation, economic instability, political turmoil, student protests … and that was just yesterday’s headlines. I heard a politician on 702 yesterday saying: “Sometimes in politics, nothing happens in a decade. Other times, a decade happens in a week. This is one of those times.” Touché.

 The rate of change and disruption in our society feels unprecedented, and in the turbulence that ensues, there is a resounding and desperate cry for strong leaders with innovative solutions. This is not just true in politics. It’s true in business, education and family life. It’s true in dealing with health care, basic services, and social responsibility. It’s even true in sport! ‘Business as usual’ just doesn’t cut it anymore. The rules have changed, and the need for groundbreaking new approaches has never been so urgent.

So what does it take? What will it require of me to be a solution bringer instead of a problem finder, a possibility finder instead of a bench-warming critic? Albert Einstein said “We can not solve our problem with the same level of thinking that created them.”

I have been reading Kouzes and Posner’s ‘The Leadership Challenge’ and have found the section on how to ‘Challenge the Process’ both challenging and inspiring. Their thoughts on this particular practice of true leadership have got me pondering on a number of questions:

  1. How supple is my thinking? It is a scientific fact that our brains will routinely take shortcuts when problem solving, unless we intentionally ‘re-categorise’ perceptions, information and experiences by counteracting our previous assumptions. This takes time and energy – but both are well spent! There are always other approaches to situation. My personal experiences should never become my rut.
  2. In my quest to build certainty and routine, have I become complacent? Does stability blind me to my need for adjustment? Or am I ready and alert to update my offering with the changing needs of my context? I need to regularly ask myself: “Is this really the best way of doing this?”
  3. How would I rate my levels of proactivity? Is my default setting ‘going through the motions’, or do I find ways to constructively challenge the status quo through my initiatives? Seeing life through proactive lenses involves looking outside and beyond my personal job description. At times this will include taking on tasks and responsibilities I didn’t plan for – but it will increase the efficiency of the system which will benefit me in the long run.
  4. How heartily do I encourage suggestions from others inside and outside the system? Do I see anyone involved - inside and outside - as a potential driver of innovation and improvement? Do they feel challenged and yet safe to apply their minds and experience to the project or process? I am growing and excelling as a leader when those around me experience the reward of seeing their new ideas fly.
  5. How good am I at anticipating disruptions? Do I see them coming and change my posture, or am I looking back at the beach when the huge wave hits me from behind? If next year’s version of me is a product of the decisions I make this year, what may I regret when I get there? What changes could I make to not only brace for, but also ride the challenges of the next few months – economically, relationally, and in my business?



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